Monday, 24 October 2011

I panicked...

Last night, I was sat next to Mrs A, watching television. My God isn't X-factor rubbish this year and that was soooo unfair on Rory Bremner. Anyway, the fire was on next to me, and it was a chilly night. That meant, that owing to me occupying the warmest place, I was hot and she was 'just right'. Oh, the sacrifices. It was so hot for me, that I ended up dressed in t-shirt and shorts.

Perfectly normal so far, nothing crossed my mind. Suddenly Mrs A remarks,"have you shaved your legs?" In that moment, the world inverted.

For those of you who aren't regular readers, the current plot is that Mrs A and I split up. We got back together on the basis that I would, by hook or crook, stop my transgendered ways. I genuinely tried for 4 months-ish to do so, but couldn't and have lapsed into my old girl ways. The first step of which was to shave legs, armpits and chest. I'm practised, after 17 years together of hiding this in a stealthy way. Except last night, I forgot. Idiot that I am.

So when she asked, I panicked. Don't you think that's ridiculous? I just completely overreacted and started saying that I hadn't shaved and that my leg hair is always that short and it's really fair and that of course I didn't shave it. Now, neither of those things are a million miles from true, I don't grow much hair naturally, and my leg hair is very very fair. But I'm still not sure I was believed.

Why didn't I just say yes and tell the truth that I had shaved? Believe me, that was the question I asked myself straight way. I reasoned that whether I'm dressing or not, she knows I hate body hair and might actually just think it was a vestige I was holding on to, without actually dressing. But the thing that panicked me was that a scarier line of questioning could result from saying yes. I already think that my reaction will lead to more scrutiny. Upto press, I think I've not done anything (that she is aware of) that would lose trust. And if it's a measure, I've only dressed a dozen times in the last month or so. But her thinking that I'm shaving, could lead to her noticing more and getting suspicious of everything. Or you could say that she already was and she'd been waiting for an opportunity to say something? In my gut, it feels like I'm on the brink of her asking directly whether I've returned to my girl ways and of me having to decide how to answer that.

I thought I was hiding it well. But just writing this post has shocked me. I always say that articulating this stuff makes me look at it in a very different way, yet again the blog delivers for me personally. Why has my life, yet again, become one of sneaking around, hiding, lying to the people I love to protect something I'm proud of and that is not wrong or shameful, but instead is a big part of who I am. Why, in the place of greatest intimacy and supposed trust am I forced to be the pretend me?

Many people I have spoken to have encouraged me to keep the lie in order to keep the marriage. To keep everything that I love - my home, kids, job etc. But I am increasingly uncomfortable with the level of compromise it leaves me with. I'm a heart on her sleeve kinda girl and this is not playing out well for me. I don't want to be the kind of person who lies all the time, it makes me so sad and makes me feel somehow, dirty. I've reluctantly agreed with my advisors and counsellors that it's best to keep the secret, for everyone's sake. Seemingly except mine. I am such a selfish bitch, does this mean it's time to face the music?

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Help needed: how do you explain it?

I’ve come out to a fair few people over the last year and am really happy about it.  I have a script that I use now that allows me to test the water and to reveal my secret bit-by-bit.  I start with the ‘easier’ parts of my story and finish up with the doozy that I’m transgendered.

But, having explained it and my situation, many of the people who I tell frustrate me by saying, “So it’s a bit like being an alcoholic then?”  Their meaning behind that is that it’s an addiction that I can’t give up.  To them, this would explain why I would be willing to sacrifice my family, home and life to still be able to be a girl.  I have to say, I blanche every time.  This analogy they use is one that I find almost upsetting.  It implies that this is something that:

a. I’ve chosen to do
b. I could stop if I had enough willpower
c. is deliberately debilitating to my life and health
d. is a negative bad thing that is horrible for the people around me

You get the picture I’m sure and like me I suspect you will find the analogy quite insulting really.  Nothing against people who suffer with alcoholism, but transgender-ness is very different surely.   So, I always disagree with them when they say it, but I’ve never managed to come up with an appropriate alternative.   I toyed with likening it to a terminal disease: it’s something you didn’t chose, won’t change and actually have little control over.  But the issue with that view of it is that you presumably don’t enjoy (in any way at all) having a terminal disease.  Whereas I love being able to be Rhiannon.

So to be honest, I’m stumped.  I was wondering whether anyone else had an analogy they use that I could borrow for when I’m trying to help people understand what is going on with me?  Any help would be gratefully received.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Camp or kitsch

Is it possible for t-girls to be camp?  It probably sounds unusual but it is one of the many questions that have been playing on my mind for a while.   No, I really don't have too much time on my hands - honest.

A few weeks ago one of my friends, who knows about Rhiannon, said that she thought I was camp.  The thing is that I never ever considered myself camp at all, so to be honest I was a little surprised.  My definition of camp is fairly stereotypical and probably slightly prejudicial if I’m honest.  What I mean is that I wouldn’t consider myself camp because I have a normal type of voice and when I’m not in heels, I don’t mince.  Actually I more lumber really.

So I couldn’t fathom what prompted my friend to make the comment and actually why it jarred so much with me.  But in talking to her, we arrived at an understanding that it was things I talk about that make me sound camp rather than me actually ‘acting’ camp, if that makes sense?  

Anyway, I parked it for a couple of weeks without consciously thinking about it.  But every so often I would mention something or a point would come out in a conversation what would make me think, ‘oooh, that is SO camp’!  But I still dismissed it.

Then, last week I started to listen to a new book.  One of the things you need to know about me is that I read and listen to books a lot.  I drive for many hours each week and I voraciously consume audio books. My tastes are wide and varied – I’ve even owned up to recently discovering a penchant for chick lit.

The book in question is Seth Rudetsky’s Broadway nights.  If, according to Wikipedia, the original definition of camp, in the 1909 Oxford English Dictionary was “ostentatious, exaggerated, affected, theatrical; effeminate or homosexual”, then Broadway Nights is 100% well and truly camp.  And Mr Rudetsky, who voices the book, is camper than a scout jamboree .   But the thing is, I loved it.  It was fun, sparky, bitchy, laugh out loud funny and, did I mention, very very very camp?

If I like campiness and am happy to revel in it, surely I must be camp?  And then the thought struck.  Camp is a term applied generally to gay men – so is it even possible for t-girls to be camp too?  Partly I guess it depends on how you view your t-ness…  But assuming we aspire to be more feminine than masculine, I tried to recall whether I’d ever heard of women being referred to as camp.  I couldn’t think of a time when I had seen it – it certainly doesn’t seem to happen very often.  Instead of referring to a woman as camp, people seem to say that they are either being retro or kitsch.  

So, girlfriend, that’s where I arrived – and next time I see that friend of mine I’m going to tell them.  They can call me kitsch and I will own that label, but, as fun as it is, I’m rejecting any campiness.   But the question it leaves me with for you is – are you camp or are you kitsch?

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Weird, or wonderful?

Up until 2 years ago today my relationship with my camera was shaky to say the least.  There were a couple of classic photos that featured on most of my profiles.  One was a shot of me in my favourite skirt – a close up that revealed, well, a skirt.  The other photo I regularly used was a full-ish length shot with me in my denim miniskirt, pink gypsy top and a big black photoshopped box over my face.  I even cropped it carefully as it was taken at home and might have given away more than I wanted.

I was paranoid about revealing anything else, to say the least.  I was obsessed with the idea that I was going to be recognised and outed.  I was in the closet with the door locked from the inside with a pile of furniture holding the door closed and a grand piano blocking that furniture.  It was the last thing that I wanted anyone to find out about me. I’m not saying I don’t care about that at all, even now, but I also am sure that it is not the end of the world.  At some point I’m going to have to deal with people hearing about my secret whether I like it or not anyway.  Too many people know about me now. At some point it will break as gossip amongst the people who know me.  It may already be out there.

But that’s not the point.  The point is that two years ago today, the trepidation of being photographed vanished.  For the first time ever, I visited a dressing service and had some photos taken by a pro.  The first time I arrived, to be frank, I was scared witless.  I was about to completely lay it on the line and show everything about me to someone for the first time.   Could I trust them?  Would they laugh at me?  Would there be a collective gasp, followed by a ‘god, you are ugly’ comment?  I really didn’t know what to expect.

I don’t know what the view of this community is of dressing services; but that first time I went, I found a caring acceptance I had never known before.  I met people who had seen it all before and who helped me to embrace myself in a way I had never done before.  On my own, in the closet, there was a certain amount of sexualisation and fear of my girl side.  Through the eye of their camera lens they introduced me to someone I’d never met.  I met Rhiannon for the first time and despite her flawed appearance they allowed me to see a curvaceous sassy girl who didn’t want to be sexual fantasy, but instead who just wanted to be a normal woman.  One who didn’t revolve around a secretive ‘existence’, but instead wanted to find her place in the real world.

The first time I came back and posted a photo taken on my visit, face included, I held my breath.  But the feedback was so kind and uplifting that in an instant I profoundly changed.  My paranoia disappeared.  Since, I have shown my photos to countless people who know me.  They never twig that it’s me until I point it out or wait for them to guess.  They normally, very kindly, say that they would never believe that I could look so pretty. The photos capture my inner happiness of being who I really am and that is transformative of itself.

I’ve been back to the service since and they have taught me the art of make up. They helped me to see what looks good and what looks disastrous.  In the absence of girlfriends I see regularly, they provided a place of reflection where I could make decisions about what kind of person Rhiannon was to be. I’m not sure I could have found a better starting point.

Next month I go for my next appointment and I’ve been excitedly planning my outfits, working out what I need to buy, considering how I can lose a bit of weight to hopefully fit into the next size down before I go.  Honestly, I can’t wait.

But above all, and this is an unsolicited advertisement, the owners of Trans-Femme in Swindon, where I went and still go, are singularly lovely people and if you are up for that type of thing, I heartily recommend them to you.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Well, I did it...

After months of resisting and pushing back and trying not to, I retrieved my clothes.  Sat in my make up, wig, jeans, cardigan, I've not gone completely over the top glamourous - just a normal girl really, but it feels so relaxed.  I feel like I'm me again and all's right with the world.

The reality is that this big step means that nothing is right with the world.  The world that I hoped to be part of, that I strived to enjoy, may just have departed me. The trade off is that my sanity remains - I'm not actually sure it would have lasted much longer without taking this step.

The journey resumes and come what may, I need to stay on it.  Where are the exits somebody, I have a feeling this is going to be a bumpy ride.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

The Crying Game

I am, as usual, behind the times.  But I recently watched The Crying Game.  A film that features a transgender character and I really enjoyed it.  I’ve read the many blogs on the subject of films featuring t-girls of varying hues.  The reviews are often not very complimentary – e.g. whether an actual transgendered person should have played the character, whether it was representative etc.  To be honest I’m not even going to go there: it’s not an argument I’m qualified to get involved with.

Whilst the character was an obviously flawed person (which of us isn’t) I merely wanted to comment on some of her very endearing points that, on overall reflection meant that I really warmed to her.

Worryingly, I fear that these say far more about me than about her, but I’ll go for it anyway:

1. I loved the fact that she was so willing to be vulnerable.  Don’t get me wrong, she showed her strength overall, but her points of vulnerability were so touching.  I’m just such an old fashioned girl and on the few occasions I have been with a man as a girl, its one of the things that I most enjoyed.  Letting someone else control the situation.  I take control at times, but trusting that he was kind and would act in my interests too is very special.  It is an amazing gift you can give someone.  I get that this is not always through choice, but it’s a gift all the same.

2. Her neediness and humanity was so well played.  At one point in the film she assumes that the main character knows that she is transgendered.  He finds out in the worst possible way – staring at a pre-op girl with everything on display.  His reaction was pretty sad, but she seemed genuinely traumatised that she felt she had let him down and that he was upset with her.  Her neediness really set in from that point and knowing she’d found someone who was truly a gentleman (to her knowledge at that point) made her not want to lose him.  He was her hero and in true cinematic tradition, she became his heroine at the end, just before he rescues her right back.  Her spark of hope for a genuine relationship with the person she loved was compelling, especially when you consider that it could so easily be extinguished.  She bravely went with it anyway.  Some people hate neediness, but knowing someone else is relying on you to emotionally and physically support them is not a bad thing?  It was almost in the vain of Nancy from Oliver - another character who breaks my heart.  Women and bad boys.  Terrible combination.

3. She uses her femininity so well.  Clearly she is someone who (apart from the hands) is very convincing as a woman and she really does work her assets so well.   Oh to be able to do that!!  I said this didn’t reflect well on me!

And finally, I’ve thought this for a while, but Stephen Rea, the main character is quite attractive.  It seems we have very similar taste in men too!